What are muscle knots?

You know that tight feeling in your muscles which can shoot pain to other areas of your body like your neck, arms, and shoulders? If you locate the source, it feels like you have a hard knot in your muscle which is very tender when you try to rub it out. Or maybe you get tension headaches and wonder why you keep getting them? What causes these hard knots to form in our muscles and how can we avoid them?

What are trigger points?

These “muscle knots” are actually called myofascial trigger points. It may feel like a knot, but there’s actually no knot involved. Research is still being conducted to determine the exact cause of trigger points, but the theory is they are a small area of tightly contracted muscle or an isolated spasm affecting an area of muscle tissue. These is different than a whole-muscle spasm such as a cramp or “charlie horse”. When the small area of muscle is “knotted” it cuts off blood supply causing further irritation.

These trigger points can cause an exorbitant amount of pain and discomfort causing other side effects as well. They are often a key factor in neck pain, low back pain, and headaches including migraines and cluster headaches.

Causes for trigger points

What causes these isolated areas of the muscle to contract and cause pain? The primary cause: muscle overload.

You might think this only refers to physical strain on the muscle, but actually there’s more to it. In a muscle overload situation, your body is attempting to do all it can to maintain the contraction of a muscle as if it were a life or death situation such as escaping an attacker. Though this is probably not a common experience in your day to day activities, your muscles may not know the difference. You could be carrying a baby, holding your arm on a steering wheel, or typing at a computer. Trigger points are often formed in muscles that remain contracted for long periods of time without relief.

How to get rid of trigger points

When trigger points happen, they create very painful reactions throughout your body. Luckily, there are a couple ways to get rid of them:

Manual Manipulation: Trigger points can be released by a chiropractic adjustment and by applying pressure to the trigger point for a few seconds until it disappears and the muscles relax. This is often followed by a massage and treatment may be repeated if the trigger point is severe.

Water: If you’re dehydrated, this causes the chemical processes in your body to not work as efficiently as it should. Dehydration is often the culprit in tension headaches. Being properly hydrated will reduce the formation of trigger points and make them easier to treat.

Stretching: Stretch the area where the trigger point is concentrated and apply pressure to interrupt the contraction, encourage recirculation, and retrain your muscle to move at its proper range. Stretching and pressure from activities like gentle yoga can help ease tension in your back and neck.

Why you should get rid of them

Other than causing pain and discomfort, are there more important reasons to get rid of trigger points? Absolutely.

If left to their own demise, trigger points can become more complicated, painful and expensive. Since they commonly shoot pain to other areas of the body, it can cause greater harm in the long run. Trigger points often complicate injuries and mimic other problems in the body.

The best thing you can do is take care of painful trigger points right away. Make sure you’re properly hydrated, stretch the affected area, change up your routine, and see your chiropractor for help with releasing them so you can be pain-free and avoid future issues. Your health is worth it!